“You disgust me!”
“You’ll never get accepted into that college!”
“Get a life!”
Can you imagine yourself talking to a person close to you in this manner? Of course not! It’s natural for us to speak with kindness to someone we care about. Often when they end up on our couch, with their head resting on our shoulders, we listen to them with our hearts open. We let them know that it is okay to not be okay. We provide them with unconditional support and respect when they are going through a rough patch. In other words, most of us are great at being understanding, kind and compassionate toward others.
But how many of us extend such a sensitive treatment to our own selves?
We live in a society which constantly tells us to be on our toes, to never lose sight of what we did wrong, to never let go of our failures or else we’ll become narcissistic monsters! But is it true?
Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor in the University of Texas, says, “For the past decade I’ve been conducting research on self-compassion and have found that people who are compassionate to themselves are much less likely to be depressed, anxious, insecure and stressed, and are much more likely to be happy, resilient, optimistic and motivated to change themselves and their lives for the better. They also tend to have better relationships with others. In short, self-compassionate people experience greater psychological well-being.”
It does make sense. When the voice inside of us criticises us right from when we wake up till we fall asleep, we step into a behaviour of self-sabotage & self-harm. But when this very voice becomes a supportive friend, every personal failing becomes a lesson to know more about oneself, in an environment that is accepting and safe.
Dr. Kristen defines self compassion as having three main components – kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.
“Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be supportive and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical or judgmental. Instead of tearing ourselves to shreds when we fail or make a mistake, we soothe and comfort ourselves, providing the caring concern needed to try again. Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect. It allows us to connect our own flawed condition to the shared human condition so that we can have a greater perspective on our personal shortcomings and difficulties. Mindfulness can be defined as the clear seeing and acceptance of what is occurring in the present moment. It involves being aware of one’s painful feelings in a balanced manner so that one neither ignores nor exaggerates personal suffering.”, she says.
Luckily, all of us are pretty great at being compassionate towards those we love. To realise the benefits of self-compassion, we just need to extend the same pair of welcoming and supportive arms towards our own self. So the next time something doesn’t go as you’d planned it, take a second. Think of how you’d have approached the situation had the same thing happened with your best friend and then… act!